Will America see its first Jewish President?

Face to face: Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders.

Face to face: Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Sanders and Bloomberg vie to bust barrier.

White House hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg could hardly be more different in their politics, but in one striking way they share a similarity marking a milestone in U.S. presidential campaigning: both men are Jewish.

Should Senator Sanders, the progressive torchbearer and current Democratic frontrunner, or centrist billionaire Bloomberg, who is polling in third, win the nomination and then the election against incumbent Donald Trump, America would have the first Jewish President in its history.

And yet the fact that two Jews are in prominent positions in the 2020 race — 16 months after a white nationalist murdered 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue— has been met with muted celebration within the Jewish community, and a sense of detachment among the broader public, observed Rabbi Adam Kligfeld. “It’s amazing, stunning, surprising and odd how little is being made of that data point.”

The two are also drawing concerns. Mr. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist, while Mr. Bloomberg is a multi-billionaire accused of buying his way into the presidential race.

There is little love lost between them, as evidenced in January when Mr. Bloomberg sand-bagged Mr. Sanders during an address at a Miami synagogue. “I know I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for President,” he said, between quoting Leviticus and jokes about Wolfie’s deli. “But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz.”

The rise of Mr. Sanders has sparked a debate about whether values embraced by Jews, like social justice, are best achieved through policies including universal health care, or by unwavering defense of Israel. He has repeatedly insisted he supports Israel but opposes policies that he says hurt Palestinians. In Tuesday’s debate he branded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist”.

For decades Jews have voted overwhelmingly Democratic. But only 11% of Jewish voters support Mr. Sanders, while 8% back Mr. Bloomberg, Pew Research Center polling shows.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 12:28:24 AM |

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